Archaelogists associated with Mexico’s National Institute of Archaeology and History (INAH) made a strange discovery earlier this month at the Templo Mayor, the temple complex at the center of Mexico City, formerly ancient capital of Tenochtitlan.
The INAH archaelogists uncovered a ritual offering of starfish, about 160 in total, enveloping the skeleton of a jaguar, according to a recent video released by the institute. Like the majority of the offerings found at the Templo Mayor, the starfish were dedicated to the two-sided god Huehueteotl-Xiuhtecuhtli, who represents both water and fire, agriculture and war.
The starfish were first discovered in 2019 when archaeologists kept finding small white stones in a layer they were excavating in an altar. Their scientists quickly saw that they were the bones of starfish, which was further confirmed by the imprint of a starfish which was found mostly intact. The starfish found there are believed to all belong to the same species, Nidorellia armata, or the chocolate-chip starfish, on account of its black spots and beige pattern.
The bones of these marine creatures make up a stunning 80% of the composition of layer they were studying, making it the largest documented starfish offerings in Mexico. Amidst this pile of starfish bones the skeleton of a jaguar was revealed.
“It’s very interesting because, if you think of it, the pattern on the starfish looks very similar to the pelt of a jaguar,” archaeologist Miguel Báez Pérez said in an interview with INAH. “That’s probably the reason they chose this species but we still need to do an exhaustive review to confirm that this is the only species present.”
The starfish remains are being cleaned and bagged to be further analyzed at the Institute of Marine Scientists at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
“The offerings tell us about the conquest of marine regions, coastal regions and obviously the extraction of precious materials,” said Miguel Báez Pérez.